About one in every five Iowans has allergies and many of them are starting to feel the effects of the season. Allergy expert Dr. Vinay Mehta says the bouts of sneezing and itchy red eyes are just beginning.

Mehta says tree pollen is prevalent right now, but that’s been varied due to the mixed weather, although within two weeks, grass pollen will hit too and then pollen will be in full force for the spring. He says a lot of people are suffering at this time of the year, and relief is many weeks away.

He says some 45-million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis — more commonly called hay fever — and it’s the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. and is the top cause of chronic illness in children. Mehta says the best medicine for both indoor and outdoor allergies may be inter-nasal steroids. He warns people to use caution when seeking help through over-the-counter allergy drugs.

Mehta says it’s a common misconception to think that the O-T-C drugs are safe, and they’re really not. He says those medications are often sedating antihistamines. With those, you shouldn’t be operating a vehicle or machinery. He says most of the drugs that last for 24 hours are not generally linked with side effects, like drowsiness and concentration impairment. The non-sedating types can allow allergy sufferers to function more normally without being sleepy.